Theft (known in some jurisdictions as stealing) is in general unlawfully taking someone else'sproperty. In law, it is usually the broadest term for a crime against property. It is a general term that encompasses offences such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, and sometimescriminal conversion. Legally, theft is generally considered to be synonymous with larceny.
In the common law, theft is usually defined as the unauthorised taking or use of someone else's property with the intent to deprive the owner or the person with rightful possession of that property or its use.
As with other common law crimes, it is composed of two elements, the actus reus the unauthorized taking or use and the intent to deprive the mens rea. Thus if one goes to a restaurant and by accident one takes someone else's hat or scarf instead of one's own hat or scarf, one has deprived someone of the use of their property and has taken the other person's property in an unauthorized manner, but without the intent to deprive the person (hum, this is a much nicer scarf than mine or he'll never notice the spot on the hat until he gets home) there is no criminal act (actus reus) and thus no crime. Note that there may be civil liability, by depriving someone of their property you may be liable for damages in a civil court, but without proof of your intent to deprive, no criminal act has occurred.
Larceny is a crime involving stealing. Under English common law, larceny consisted of (1) a taking (2) and carrying away (3) of tangible personal property (4) of another (5) by trespass (6) with intent to permanently deprive.
In most of the United States the common law definitions of certain crimes have been modified. Quite often the general crime of theft has replaced larceny, and most related common law and statutory crimes such as embezzlement, false pretenses, robbery, and receipt of stolen property.
Larceny by Trick or Deception occurs when the victim of larceny is tricked by a misrepresentation of fact into giving up possession of property. This should not be confused with false pretenses, where the victim is tricked into giving up title to the property.
Grand larceny is typically defined as larceny of a significant amount of property, in the US this is often defined as an amount valued at $200 or more. Because of its distinctive meter, the phrase is often heard in the lyrics of gangsta rap compositions.
In cases where services rather than goods have been unlawfully appropriated, the charge of theft of services may apply.
Motor vehicle theft
Motor vehicle theft is a crime of theft. This is generally understood to refer to the stealing ofautomobiles, buses, motorcycles, snowmobiles, trucks, and the like; but not to aircraft, boats,bulldozers, and spacecraft.
In almost all jurisdictions, theft of a motor vehicle is punishable as a felony due to the extreme emotional and economic distress it causes to the victim and to society.
The crime is commonly charged under the name "grand theft auto" in the U.S.
Colloquially, stealing a motor vehicle while it is occupied by its owner or authorized user is known ascarjacking, and is in many legal systems treated as a form of robbery. Stealing a motor vehicle to ride and then abandon it is known as joyriding.
In order to prevent motor vehicle theft, most jurisdictions require that the vehicle identification numbers (VIN in North America) of motor vehicles be registered with a vehicle licensing authority, making it difficult to resell a stolen vehicle. Most motor vehicle theft involves dismantling the vehicle and selling its parts which are not registered and for which there is a large market, or by moving the vehicle to another country, such as Mexico, that does not have access to the same database, or by sea to the former Soviet Union or some other place that has weak customs controls.
Theft of services
Theft of services is the legal term for a crime which is committed when a person obtains services - as opposed to goods - without lawfully compensating the provider of said services.
Crimes of this sort are typically prosecuted as larceny, and may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, based upon the value of the services illegally obtained. Specific examples of statutes covering these matters include Section 165.15 of the New York State Penal Law and Section 502 of the California Penal Code (in the latter state the main section dealing with theft, Section 484, may also be applicable depending on the precise circumstances of the case).
This category encompasses a wide variety of criminal activity - including, but not limited to, tampering with an electric or gas meter so that the true level of consumption is understated; leaving a restaurant or similar establishment without paying for the meal; and "turnstile jumping" or other methods of evading the payment of a fare when using a public transit vehicle.
These statutes have also, on occasion, been applied in the realm of health care, when hospitals or other health-care providers have pressed criminal charges against indigent, uninsured patients who were unable to pay for their treatment. One such instance was reported in the February 19, 2004edition of the Wall Street Journal, involving two hospitals in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois area which were engaging in this practice. This scenario has prompted intense criticism, and is a key issue in the call by many liberals for a major overhaul of the health-care system in the United States.
This article should be merged with Software Piracy
Software theft is a popular term for unauthorised duplication and/or use of computer software. This usually means unauthorised copying, either by individuals for use by themselves or their friends or, less commonly, by companies who then sell the illegal copies to users. Many kinds of software protection have been invented to try to reduce software copyright infringement but, with sufficient effort it is always possible to bypass or "crack" the protection, and software protection is often annoying for legitimate users.
Software copyright infringement was estimated for 1994 to have cost $15 billion (USD) in worldwide lost revenues to software publishers. In the UK, for example, it is a serious offence under theCopyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which states that "The owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to copy the work.".
It is estimated that European software houses alone lose $6 billion (USD) per year through the unlawful copying and distribution of software, with much of this loss being through business users rather than "basement hackers". One Italian pirating operation employed over 100 staff and had a turnover of $10 million (USD).
It is illegal to:
1. Copy or distribute software or its documentation without the permission or licence of the copyright owner.
2. Run purchased software on two or more computers simultaneously unless the licence specifically allows it.
3. Knowingly or unknowingly allow, encourage or pressure employees to make or use illegal copies sources within the organisation.
4. Infringe laws against unauthorised software copying because a superior, colleague or friend compels or requests it.
5. Loan software in order that a copy be made of it.
When software is upgraded it is generally the case that the licence accompanying the new version revokes the old version. This means that it is illegal to run both the old and new versions as only the new version is licensed.
Both individuals and companies may be convicted of copyright infringement offences. Officers of a company are also liable to conviction if the offences were carried out by the company with their consent. On conviction, the guilty party can face imprisonment for up to two years (five in USA), an unlimited fine or both as well as being sued for copyright infringement (with no limit) by the copyright owner.
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